Chattahoochee Fall Line Conservation Partnership Stewardship Update

February 12, 2015 Image 1 Gopher Tortoise Thumb

By Michele Elmore, The Nature Conservancy

Stewardship activities continue to scale up on the Chattahoochee Fall Line (CFL).  This past season the CFL fire team assisted prescribed fire efforts on over 9,000 acres across the Fort Benning significant geographic area (SGA) including public and private lands in Georgia and Alabama.  Efforts are underway to prepare over 500 acres for longleaf planting this winter.  This enhancement of longleaf pine habitat is improving the viability of many rare species which are increasingly observed on the CFL.  Rare reptiles observed in the last six months include a juvenile gopher tortoise, mole kingsnake, pine snake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, southern hognose snake, and a mole skink.

As part of the Chattahoochee Fall Line Conservation Partnership (CFLCP) conservation plan, a network of long-term ecological monitoring plots is being established to track progress and enable adaptive forest management.  Plot establishment and data collection began on Fort Benning in 2009.  Since June, 345 additional permanent ecological monitoring plots have been installed across Ft. Benning and adjacent partnership lands, bringing the total number of plots in the region to 485.  The purpose of these monitoring plots is two-fold: to first quantitatively describe the range of forest composition and structural conditions in upland forests on the CFL, and secondly, to track forest dynamics in response to longleaf pine forest restoration.  Monitoring plots are measured one full growing season following a restoration treatment (e.g. burning, harvesting, planting, etc.).  Data collected from this plot network is expected to not only enable adaptive forest restoration, but will also provide important insight into the role of environmental factors (e.g. soil, climate) on forest dynamics in the coming decades.

Image 1:  Juvenile gopher tortoise observed on the Chattahoochee Fall Line.  Photo by Geoff Sorrell, Land Steward, The Nature Conservancy.

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